Here are two decently long reads for your Sunday, if you want to stay briefed on China over brunch. And hey, they both come with cool custom GIFs.
First up: WeChat really is the app for everything, dontcha know? Tencent’s social messaging app recently launched a chain of cashierless pop-up stores, but their bigger play seems to be to replace China’s official ID system. Following a pilot program launched at the end of 2017, Tencent has been working closely with municipal governments around China to create a virtual ID system that will augment or possibly replace the existing shenfenzheng identification system.
Shannon Liao of The Verge has a long report on this topic, which reads in part:
To enroll in the program, users open the mini-app within WeChat to apply for a certificate. WeChat then gives you a digital black-and-white ID card that works for more informal uses like registering at internet cafes. (In China, you’re required to provide ID to log on.) Users can also apply to upgrade to a colored ID card. These can be used for more formal banking transactions and registering a business. Users can protect their IDs by setting an eight-digit password, and Xinhua says that facial recognition technology will be used to verify applicants in person before their ID cards are authorized in order to deter identity fraud. Additionally, the app will log a person’s fingerprint and the card chip from their corresponding physical ID.
Xinhua says that the digital IDs will be an “easy way to prove that ‘it’s really me’ anywhere, at any time, without worrying about identity theft.” WeChat users will, of course, still have to carry their phones, and they could still be vulnerable to identity theft if someone gains access to their phones. Tencent’s WeChat department declined to comment. The Ministry of Public Security did not immediately respond.
Read the full story here.
Your other longish read for the day comes from Jie Ma, David Stringer, Yan Zhang, and Sohee Kim at Bloomberg, who cover China’s quest to best Tesla at becoming the global EV/electric battery powerhouse. It also has a neat GIF (from which the cover image here was screengrabbed), so we recommend you click through to read the whole thing, but here are some salient details:
The next global powerhouse in the auto industry comes from a small city in a tea-growing province of southeast China, where an unheralded maker of electric-vehicle batteries is planning a $1.3 billion factory with enough capacity to surpass the output of Tesla and dwarf the suppliers for battery-powered cars by GM, Nissan and Audi.
Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd., or CATL, already sells the most batteries to the biggest electric-vehicle makers in the biggest EV market: China. Now it wants to use proceeds from a pending initial public offering backed by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to get under the hoods of more European marques and secure customers in the U.S.
The company plans to raise 13.1 billion yuan ($2 billion) as soon as this year by selling a 10 percent stake, at a valuation of about $20 billion. The share sale would finance construction of a battery-cell plant second in size only to Tesla Inc.’s Gigafactory in Nevada—big enough to cement China as the leader in the technology replacing gas-guzzling engines.
Cover image: Illustration by Max Litvinov for Bloomberg